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Debate Rule XIX does not limit number of Senators who may speak on an issue. The rule does, however, limit each Senator to two speeches per legislative day on each issue. During a filibuster period presiding officer will typically call a recess rather than an adjournment at end of calendar day, keeping legislative day alive when Senate reconvenes. This tactic effectively limits each Senator to a maximum of two speeches on each issue. It is possible, however, for a Senator to offer an amendment in order to create a new debatable question, on which Senators may make two more speeches.
A relatively recent provision in Rule XIX, called “Pastore Rule” in honor of Senator John Pastore of Rhode Island, requires that debate on a question must be germane to question. During filibuster periods this rule is enforced to prevent Senators from making meaningless, off-topic speeches. During 1930’s through 1950’s several Senators, such as Huey Long and Strom Thurmond made long filibusters which included readings of recipes, Congressional Record, Declaration of Independence, and other non-germane topics.
While a Senator is speaking on an issue he or she must remain standing and must speak more or less continuously. During a filibuster-length speech this requirement creates fatigue in speaker. However, speaker may yield to a question from another Senator without losing floor. The other Senator can provide relief by asking a very long question followed by a short answer, followed by more long questions. In this manner a group of Senators can work together to extend length of a Senator’s speaking period.
Senate Rule XXII
The procedures for invoking cloture for purposes of wrapping up floor debate and bringing question to a vote are contained in Rule XXII. The process requires a motion that is signed by at least 16 Senators and presented to presiding officer while question is being debated. The rule requires that cloture motion must be seasoned, meaning that it cannot be acted upon until second day after it is presented.
One hour after cloture motion has matured on third day presiding officer interrupts Senate proceedings and presents cloture motion to Senate for a vote. At this point an automatic roll call vote is required.
In 1975 Senate voted to change number of votes needed to invoke cloture to 60% from previous 67%. A compromise was struck, however, because some Senators feared that if changing Rule was too easy that majority needed to invoke cloture might be reduced further in future. Therefore, Senate agreed that to make future rule changes, including changing cloture rule itself, would require traditional 67% majority vote.
If motion to invoke cloture is defeated Senators can reconsider vote or file a new motion to invoke cloture. For example, in 1988 there were eight cloture motions on a campaign finance reform bill and all eight motions were defeated.
If a motion to invoke cloture is successful, then effect of invoking cloture only guarantees that a vote on question will take place eventually, but not immediately. After successful cloture motion has passed Senate is said to be working under cloture. Rule XXII imposes a maximum cap of 30 additional hours for debate, quorum calls, parliamentary inquiries, and other proceedings prior to an actual vote on question. During this cloture period each Senator is entitled to speak for a total of not more than one hour.
Once cloture has been invoked under Rule XXII, point of a filibuster is largely lost. Without exception, proceedings are wrapped up in less than 30 hours and question is brought to a vote.
The filibuster speech in Senate has enjoyed a long tradition and has been used for several purposes. On one hand filibuster has been used to persuade others of validity of minority position on a question. Open and unlimited debate can change minds and sway opinion. The filibuster speech process may help to defeat an issue once a vote is taken.
On other hand, filibuster has been used to stall or prevent a vote on an issue. The filibuster speech or threat of a filibuster may cause issue to be tabled or withdrawn and not brought to a vote on floor.
The minority party in Senate counts on use of filibuster as a means to prevent majority party from wielding too much influence. Such a tool encourages two major parties in Senate to work in nonpartisan ways to resolve differences. The filibuster creates a need for compromise. It has been suggested that without filibuster tool Senate would be much less productive in producing legislation.
Garry Gamber is a public school teacher. He writes articles about politics, real estate, health and nutrition, and internet dating services. He is a founding member of http://www.GoodPoliticsRadio.com and the owner of http://www.TheDatingAdvisor.com